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January 18, 2008

Brooklyn Paper coverage of Madden ruling

The Brooklyn Paper explained Justice Madden's ruling to its readers in the following article by Gersh Kuntzman, and its editorial.

Ratner wins big: Ruling brings Atlantic Yards closer to reality

Judge Joan Madden’s 72-page ruling fully rejected the opponents’ contention that state agencies failed to take the required “hard look” at the project’s vast environmental impact, did not fully consider alternative sites or developers, and wrongly condemned several non-blighted blocks around the project site so that they could be turned over to Ratner.

The lawsuit also questioned how Atlantic Yards could be considered a “civic project” when its main element is a publicly financed, yet privately operated, sports arena.

Madden called such arguments “without merit” and “not persuasive” frequently throughout her ruling, citing prior precedents that suggest that New York State environmental law “leaves an agency with ‘considerable latitude in evaluating environmental effects and not choosing among alternatives,’ [and that] the court is not permitted to second-guess the agency or substitute its judgment for that of the agency.”

A weak court ruling

[Justice] Madden was wrong to not challenge the validity of evidence presented by the Empire State Development Corporation — evidence that clearly shows that the agency is not, in fact, serving the public interest at Atlantic Yards.

State officials say the proposed basketball arena at the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic avenues is a public benefit; that designation, they say, would qualify Atlantic Yards as a civic project and allow the use of eminent domain to condemn privately owned property and hand it over to Ratner.

Opponents of the project dispute how building an arena for Ratner and then giving his profit-making company a $1-a-year lease for 99 years could possibly be construed as a public benefit. Rather than question that scheme, Madden hid behind state law, which she said draws no distinction between a facility leased to a non-profit entity or a for-profit conglomerate.

Opponents also dispute how three blocks on the edge of the blighted Vanderbilt rail yards could be considered “blighted” (and, therefore, subject to eminent domain) when houses there routinely sell for more than $1 million. The state also has alleged that crime is rampant in that “unsanitary and unsafe,” yet those crime statistics have been shown repeatedly to be inaccurate.

Rather than pay some attention to the men behind that curtain of lies, Madden fell back on state laws that were crafted to facilitate raiding the public trough to hand over land and taxpayer subsidies to favored developers and their political patrons without regard to public sentiment or honest analysis.

Madden’s weak ruling makes it clear that in New York, the deck is stacked against truth — and her court couldn’t be bothered.

Posted by lumi at January 18, 2008 6:23 AM